GrammarPhile Blog

Answers to Last Week's Thursday Challenge

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Sep 19, 2019 7:30:00 AM

So, how'd you do?

Perhaps after reading last week’s Sheryl’s She Shed blog challenge, you’ve had the opportunity to actually see the commercial on TV. If so, would you agree there’s something suspect about Victor’s indifferent response regarding the lightning strike? There are many theories circulating social media as to Victor’s role in the burning down of Sheryl’s she-shed. Do you have a humorous take on what might have happened? If so, we’d enjoy hearing from you. Let your imagination run wild and post your ideas below in the comments section.

Wow, as you can see, we received a range of answers to this challenge.

There are 31 wrong words, and as many of you pointed out, “chichi-er” could have simply been “chichier.” Inserting the hyphen was my mistake; I put my faith in material I read on the internet concerning “chichi,” instead of looking up the word in Merriam-Webster. Lesson learned? Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it correct!

We were initially looking for 31 wrong words; however, if you guessed 31 OR 32, we accepted you as a winner, since many of you included “chichi-er,” which took the total to 32.

Here is the list the first five people who answered correctly from the challenge we assigned our readers. Congratulations!  We'll be in touch with each of you.

  • Tara Bann
  • Deborah Baron
  • Amy
  • Desmond Ballance
  • Andrea Isiminger

If you're one of the winners, please send your email address to so we can send your gift to you.

And for those of you who guessed over or under in the number of mistakes, here’s the answer key. All mistakes are highlighted in yellow.Thanks to everyone who participated!

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Topics: common mistakes, misused words, common proofreading mistakes

Thursday Challenge

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Sep 12, 2019 7:30:00 AM

I rarely watch TV. But when I do, I watch only those shows that I’ve DVR’d — because I abhor commercials. My always-editing brain can shred to pieces commercial scripts and have fresh copy mentally written before the commercial concludes. I exaggerate, of course.

There is one commercial, however, that I’ve become humored by and tolerant of — because it’s snappy, funny and creative. It’s State Farm Insurance’s commercial featuring Victor and Sheryl, and Sheryl’s She-Shed. Are you familiar with it? If not, you can watch it on Youtube here.

If this commercial evolved into a sit-com, I’d watch — even the commercials! Because I’d want to know whether Victor intentionally sabotaged Sheryl’s she-shed so that he could claim the space for a man-cave — a place where he and all his buddies could gather on Saturdays to watch college football on a mega large-screen TV.

Below is a silly prequel to this specific commercial. And it’s filled with lots of incorrect words that sound like or look like the word that is actually meant. It’s up to you to read (carefully) and tally up the number of incorrect words used.

The first five readers to post the correct number (no more, no less) of incorrect words found in the text will receive a small gift from So, post your answer in the comments. There is a deadline though; only answers received before 5:00pm ET on Sept. 18, 2019 will be counted. AND your first answer counts; no fair going through and submitting more than one answer.

We’ll contact you if you’re a winner, and the answer key will be posted next week. Happy hunting! (The contest includes only the material below this line of text.)

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Topics: common mistakes

Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them – Part 2

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Jun 1, 2017 7:30:00 AM

Last week’s post was only the beginning of an even longer list of common mistakes writers are prone to make. Below are a few more common mistakes you should remember the next time you’re writing something, so you can fix them before you share or publish your final draft.

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Topics: common mistakes, writing mistakes

Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them – Part 1

Posted by Kelly Creighton   May 25, 2017 7:30:00 AM

All writers make mistakes. Some writers aren’t the best with punctuation, while others struggle with pronouns and hyphens. Know the mistakes you are more inclined to make so that you can fix them before submitting or publishing your work. Below are some common mistakes writers make, and how you can avoid them.

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Topics: common mistakes, writing mistakes

5 Words Even Smart People Misuse

Posted by Terri Porter   Feb 11, 2016 5:00:00 AM

Although few people compare with the likes of, say, George W. Bush in creative applications of the English language, most of us have at one time or another used the wrong word in writing or speaking. Following are five misused word pairs we’ve seen in recent months at

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Topics: common mistakes, misused words

8 Proofreading Red Flags

Posted by Terri Porter   Jul 16, 2015 6:30:00 AM

red flagWith the celebration of the American flag on Independence Day and the recent flap around the Confederate battle flag, now seems a good time to talk about red flags in proofreading — the sneaky errors in documents that are easy to overlook, especially if you’re self-editing.

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Topics: common mistakes, common proofreading mistakes, proofreading red flags

Similar but Different: Choosing the Right Word

Posted by Terri Porter   Feb 4, 2015 6:00:00 AM

This note accompanied a recent job submitted to “Please check for any blaring errors.” And this excerpt appeared in another job: “Two witnesses must be present when you sign your advanced directive.”

Encountering a word that’s similar to the one that belongs but isn’t quite right is like stepping on a slippery object while walking in a murky lake — you know you’re not on solid ground but aren’t sure why.

Sometimes the answer is obvious, as in the first example, in which “blaring” (a loud and unpleasant sound) should be “glaring” (obvious or noticeable). Sometimes it’s less so. We see the error in the second example quite a bit at “Advanced” means developed beyond an initial stage. “Advance” is the correct term here, meaning “made, sent or provided at an early time.”

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Topics: word choices, common mistakes, misused words

Words and Phrases People Often Mangle

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Sep 24, 2014 6:00:00 AM

 Mark Twain said something like "Say nothing and they'll just wonder if you're a fool. Open your mouth and you'll remove all doubt." If he were living today, he would certainly not aim that remark at you, because you're reading the GrammarPhile blog and that makes you smarter than the average bear (we hope!). You always want to appear intelligent, don't you? Study these words and use them properly. Mark Twain would be proud of you.

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Topics: common mistakes, misused words

What a Difference a Space Makes

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Apr 10, 2011 5:30:00 AM

All day and all night, customers ask us to find problems in documents. Our editors are really good at it. Some mistakes are easier to find than others, of course. And sometimes a space makes all the difference.

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Topics: spaces, mistakes, common mistakes, space issues, spacing

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